IBILAGA: Developing the Fishery Industry in Central Kalimantan

Climbing perch (Anabas testudineus), known locally as papuyu is a hardy fish found in peatlands that can survive out of water for six to ten hours, using a lung-like organ in their head to breathe air. It can also crawl on land using its pectoral fins. Our team followed a lead about a place in Garung village, where this fish is raised. We realized that it was right across the street from the rubber factory where the rubber farmers of the livelihood program in Pilang sell their product. The facility is called IBILAGA, which is an acronym that means Aquaculture Facility for Peat Water Fish. There we met with the coordinator, Pak Juliansyah, who kindly gave us a tour.

 

 

They keep the papuyu broodstock in these circular pools.

IBILAGA is a government project under the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. The facility was established in 2008 and is supervised by the Office for Cultivation of Freshwater Fish in Mandiangin, Banjar. They currently raise three types of fish: patin, papuyu and snakehead (gabus), which are sold to the public as juveniles, broodstock and mature fish for consumption. The income from these sales becomes government revenue. For the juveniles, they have an annual quota of a million fish to distribute free of charge to communities that need them and also to restock wild populations. For example, they sent 22,000 gabus juveniles to Kasongan the day after we visited the place. At any given time there would be approximately 500,000 living fish in the facility.

 

A floating net cage is one of the ways to keep the fish. These ones are a demonstration for the people to learn from.

A Research Facility

The place also functions as a training and research center for anyone interested in the freshwater fishery industry. They have received fish farmers, researchers from universities and BRIN, and the Fishery Department of several regencies in Kalimantan. Every year they have a constant flow of students from vocational schools and the University of Palangka Raya doing internships. Several of the fish ponds serve as a demonstration for people that want to learn. With the right procedures, anyone can get a crash course on fish farming, covering all the steps from spawning to sales. Pak Juliansyah was very accommodating when we asked how they spawned papuyu fish. His team collected three males, with sperm ready, and one female that was bulging with eggs inside. To induce mating, they injected the female with 0.1 ml of a hormone taken from the head of a salmon and the males 0.05 ml each. Then they put all four of them together in a large bucket of water and covered it. The fish would be left overnight and you would find fertilized eggs floating in the water the next day. After two to three days, the hatchlings are moved to the rearing pool, where they would become juveniles in 35 days.
 
Left: These female (left) and male (right) papuyu fish are ready to mate. Right: They are injected with a hormone called Ovaprim.

The main focus of this project is to develop the freshwater fish industry in Central Kalimantan. Pak Juliansyah thinks that the industry is lacking, if compared to that of South Kalimantan. He explains that “The people don’t want to raise gabus or papuyu because it takes a long time. So, one of our objectives is to shorten its growing time”, which they did for patin, from seven-eight months to four months. They do this by experimenting with three factors: the feed, the genetic stock and the environment. Another factor is the feed conversion ratio, which is 1.7:1 for the peat water fish, gabus and papuyu. This means if, for example, you want a weight increase of 100 g, you need 170 g of feed. With a shorter growing time to reach a certain weight, it would appeal more to fish farmers, because they would get more returns.

 

Papuyu juveniles, 3-5 cm in length, are ready to be distributed.

The Challenge of Peat Water

Peat water is naturally acidic, with a pH of 3-4, and has low levels of oxygen. Although papuyu can live in that extreme condition, Pak Juliansyah is not sure if that environment is conducive to its growth. Last year we visited a similar aquaculture facility in Bukit Batu that also raises gabus and papuyu to restock wild populations (link to article). The main difference in IBILAGA is that the fish are conditioned to live in water which has a pH close to neutral, which would have sufficient oxygen levels. Fish are known to eat less when there is not enough oxygen, and if they don’t eat, they don’t grow. So, to eliminate this risk, they added lime to the water in IBILAGA to raise its pH. The disadvantage is that these fish might not survive if they are released in peatland, since they are used to a pH of 5-6. In the case of a fish farm in Mentaren, Pulang Pisau there was an intrusion of peat water in the fish ponds, so they added lime for it to reach a suitable pH. 

 

Pak Juliansyah (white shirt), with his staff, Pak Ishak (middle) who is in charge of patin and papuyu production and Pak Desi (right) who works under Pak Ishak.

Pak Juliansyah strives to keep developing Central Kalimantan’s fisheries so that it can compete with the one in South Kalimantan. He believes it has great potential, since Central Kalimantan has plenty of water and a lot of land. 

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